The front of your vehicle is more important than you think. It is the first thing to protect on and off-road, but it has more uses than protecting the rest of the rig. The bumper is a place to put lights, recover points, or a winch.
Our 1997 Jeep TJ, Project Redneck, has been receiving modifications to perform well on the trail like new OMF beadlock conversion wheels and Dick Cepek Extreme Country tires, but with its latest addition, we know we will be able to travel safely. A Mean Mother winch added to the front would make sure we could get out of any tight spot.
With today’s aftermarket support growing daily for off-road rigs, we wanted to do something different. There are plenty of front bumpers on the market that allow for the addition of a winch with pre-drilled holes from the factory. Depending on the design of the bumper it could cause an issue when selecting the winch you want, a larger winch may not fit in an area that was designed for a smaller body winch.
We decide to pick the winch that we wanted and one that would help us on the trail. With this selected, we wanted to build a custom stinger front bumper for the Jeep to hold it. Let’s dive in and see what winch we chose and how we built our bumper.
After speaking to Josh Backes with Mean Mother, we selected the Edge series 9,500-pound winch. “The Mean Mother Edge winches were designed first and foremost as vehicle recovery winches,” Backes explained. “Edge winches have found a home on four-wheel-drive and off-road vehicles all over the world, and with North America being the newest region.”
Here in the United States, we have some of the best off-roading terrain in the world, but there is nothing like testing a product like this in the Australian Outback. Testing the durability and function of products in conditions like this will only lead to success in applications ranging from trailer/flatbed winches, to equipment winches, and rear recovery winches.
Our winch came with a synthetic rope, but there is more to think about when selecting which rope is best for your application. “Synthetic is superior to steel cable in every comparison, except for cost,” said Backes. “Synthetic is lighter than steel, stronger than steel, floats on water, is far less abrasive or prone to fraying that can cause painful splinters with steel cable. It is fuse-able for field repair, and most importantly it is safer.”
“In the event of a cable break when recovering, the synthetic cable will fall lifeless to the ground, this is not the case with steel,” Backes continued. “In every situation, we urge customers to make the upgrade to our genuine Dyneema SK-75 fiber cable. Synthetic cable is also known to last longer in harsh environments when compared to a traditional steel cable.“
With the right winch selected, it was time to make a bumper fit the winch. The winch comes with a template for mounting so you know exactly where to drill the mounting holes.
Being Creative With Metal
Having the tools to make what you want, when you want, allows you to create your vision. Creating the perfect bumper usually ends up being a mix of different ideas that makes a hybrid with the best of all worlds.
The idea behind our bumper was to build something that would please the eyes, accommodate the winch all while keeping the bumper as small and compact as possible, and still able performing all the duties a bumper/stinger should do.
This design was chosen to give the most strength possible to the front of the Jeep while still maintaining a great approach angle by not having it stick out too far. The stinger was put into place to save the radiator and front end in the event of a rollover. It was made to allow the tires to contact the ground all the way up to the tipping point.
With the fairlead installed we were able to get the winch installed. The winches control box was mounted under the hood for added protection on the trail. The wires were run from the winch to the box through the grille.
The winch controller is able to be connected to the box and controlled while standing in front of the vehicle or running the wire inside. One thing we do plan on adding down the road is Mean Mother’s interior switch mounted control. This would allow the winch to be used with the push of a button all while sitting in the driver seat.
The winch paired with the synthetic rope worked well in the simple tests in the local hills. though we have not got in an extreme situation where we had to use the winch, we have the peace of mind that we will be able to safely winch on the trail.
We spoke with the Jeep’s owner Dean Jigamian to find out how he has enjoyed the winch. “The winch has been able to do everything it has needed to,” Jigamian explained. “It has a beefy hook with lots of pulling power.”
“Install and wiring were easy. Being able to relocate the control box was great for making a clean install,” Jigamian said. “The recovery speed or line in speed is good and does not seem to produce a lot of heat when being used. The winch lead is long enough if I need to stand behind the Jeep in a sticky situation.”
For more information on how to use the winch and what else you should pack on to the trail be sure to check out our Recovery 101 article.
Time For The Trail And Beyond
Everything finalized, we were able to get ready to hit the trail and everything that comes along with that.
Every winch is bench tested in addition to being tested in the Outback. – Josh Backes, Mean Mother.
Mean Mother does offer different accessories, and one that we were excited about them offering was the cabin rocker switches. These switches can be wired directly into the Mean Mother control box, allowing the driver to switch on/off the power to the winch, and also control the in/out function.
This is surely one addition that we hope we never have to use, but know if we do we will be able to get out safely. For more information on Mean Mother products be sure to check out its website and Facebook page.